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Hiking the Herbert Glacier Trail

I have lived in Juneau for 12 years, but until last Saturday had not hiked the Herbert Glacier trail.  I took care of that last Saturday and I’m glad I did. If you live in Juneau, you’ll want to hike this trail if you haven’t already.

This hike started with a long drive (for Juneau). I had to hop in my car and drive almost 30 miles to the trailhead. I would have been willing to take public transportation if it were available, but bus service stops around mile 15 of the Egan highway and I needed to reach mile 26.

So, after a half hour or so and a brief false start at the Windfall Lake trailhead immediately across the Herbert River, I found myself at the Herbert Glacier Trail trailhead:

Trailhead Map for Herbert Glacier Trail

Since I got my iPhone a few months ago, I’d gotten into the habit of posting my starting point and time to Facebook, along with a “turn around” photo. But the Herbert Glacier trail is beyond Juneau’s cell phone range. So it was time to start walking down the trail:

Starting the Five Hour Round Trip

At first I really marveled at all of the moss on the trees and the dense underbrush:

Mossy Tree

But after awhile, I got tired of it. Makes me sound shallow, but there you have it. About an hour fifteen into my walk I started wondering if it was going to be this “monotonous” all the way to the glacier. Then I broke into a clearing and saw this lake:

Forest Lake Reflections

The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but it really was worth the whole trip. I recommend stopping at the lake to anyone who’s interested in a two hour hike instead of a five hour one. But I was interested in a longer hike so I kept going.

After two hours of walking, I was rewarded with this view of Herbert Glacier:

Herbert Glacier 2

I wanted to get closer to the glacier, so I started walking on the sandy flats shown at the bottom of this picture. Here’s the closest I was able to get:

Constricted Herbert Glacier

It’s not shown in the picture above, but there was a deep swift river between me and the glacier, or I would have hiked closer. But it was enough. If there’s more good weather between now and the first snows, I’d happily go again. I find it as lovely as the top of Mount Jumbo, but for a lot less effort. It is an effort though, it was five hours round trip and that’s one of my longer hikes. I am sort of sore today. But I didn’t pull anything and I didn’t trip over rough spots in the trail. The trail is about the same as the first bit I showed you practically till the end. If you can walk for five hours, you can experience Herbert Glacier.

Or, you could take a helicopter:

A Coastal Helicopter with wood

I preferred hiking it, myself. Even knowing the helicopter folks probably landed on the glacier itself at some point.

If you liked what you see here, I posted a lot more photos of this hike on Flickr.


6 Responses

  1. I can feel the chill in the air when I look at your beautiful pictures. But then again, I live in the desert. It’s 105 here.

  2. Thanks for your kind words. It was around 60 or so when I took these pictures. An acceptably warm day for us.

    Hope you get cooler soon!

  3. Wow, cool pics! The moss growing in the trees looks quite unusual.

  4. Looks like a great hike… Anything north of Washington and the rain forest along the BC and Alaskan coast is so wonderfully exotic.

    I have had this romantic idea of taking a boat through the islands there and taking in the fjords and the forest slowly. If I ever do, and start in Jeaneau, I think this trail might be a great warm up for the whole trip.

    Andrew Szalay

  5. Thanks all for stopping by. For something more representative of trail conditions around Southeast Alaska, I’d suggest the Treadwell Ditch Trail or the DuPont trail. Both have sections that are not as well maintained as the Herbert Glacier trail but neither make you want to give up and go home.

    Thanks for sharing your Suburban Mountaineer blog. It looks interesting.

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